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Advanced Marketing

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M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Digital Effect
Dissertation Proposal

The aim of this dissertation is to question the nature of digital cinema and its relationship to analogue filmmaking. I would like to argue that “pure” digital or analogue cinema does not exist anymore. Even films which are shot and edited using digital technology, in most cases, eventually will be printed onto film in order to be projected. I am interested in the transformation of storytelling and narration caused by digital revolution. I will analyse the shift that occurred in cinema after 1997, when the video techniques became more popular. I would like to avoid simplifying or dismissive statements about the aesthetics developed by digital techniques. It is a very rare occurrence for a film to be entirely analogue or digital. Therefore, I intend to talk about the intersection of digital and analogue techniques and the effect that digital practices have upon the tradition of storytelling. In their analysis of new media, Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell describe this intersection of analogue and digital with a term “digitextuality”. This fusion of “digital” and “intertextuality” illustrates the process in which old media acquire new shape and form:

M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

New digital media technologies make meaning not only by building a new text through absorption and transformation of other texts, but also by embedding the entirety of other texts (analogue and digital) seamlessly within the new. 1

My intention is to discuss the artistic rather than economical aspects of digital cinema. Simply because digital filmmaking is cheaper and more accessible than 35 mm film and it is difficult to argue with it. However, the fact that late 90s brought inexpensive cameras along with cheap editing software and Internet distribution had a great impact on film aesthetics. It encouraged creative people from various backgrounds to try their hands at filmmaking, which then gave very exciting results. New digital tools also allowed filmmakers to experiment with areas inaccessible to them before, such as animation or special effects. I do not plan to analyse genre films that are based on special effects, such as sciencefiction and horror films. I will be focusing mainly on “art house” films which use computer-generated imagery (CGI) with the intention of reinventing “reality” to match the character’s state of mind. However, I would like to refer to generic science-fiction films to point out the differences (and possible similarities) in filmmakers’ approach. The concept of digital cinema is very complex and it is surrounded by misconceptions. Therefore I will intend to clearly define my understanding of this phenomenon (i.e. define the ideas of “film”, “analogue video” and “digital video”).


Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell, New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality (New York: Routledge, 2003), p.7.


M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Research questions
• Can digital cinema be considered as an autonomous phenomenon, an original outcome of technology revolution, or is it merely a modification of the “old cinema”? • Are the differences between analogue and digital techniques limited to the technical issues or are we being witnesses to a revolution in storytelling too?

How does digital technology influence various aspects of the film style, such as narrative, editing, the use of special effects, mis-en-scène and cinematography?

Are there any distinctive themes emerging in digital storytelling that are uniquely representative for this new technique?

I aim to explore the use of digital techniques in both digital and analogue contemporary cinema and make an attempt to distinguish potential trends provoked by the new medium. My dissertation will be divided into two parts: theoretical and analytical. In the first part I will present those theories and concepts that are, in my opinion, most interesting and valuable for the purpose of this research. This will include Lev Manovich’s article What is Digital Cinema?2, Holly Willis’ introduction to contemporary digital cinema - New Digital


Lev Manovich, What is Digital Cinema? (1995) Available from


M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image3 and the joint effort of Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell: New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality.4 I will also present selected postmodernist theories of intertextuality and meta- and database-narrations by Jean Baudrillard, Julia Kristeva, Jean-François Lyotard and Marsha Kinder and I will relate them to particular examples of film. The second part of this thesis will be dedicated to the analysis of ways of applying digital techniques to elements of the film style. I aim to find stylistic coherence which would constitute “digital aesthetics”. I will analyse films that rely on the possibilities of: • Digital editing and its effect on the narrative: Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan), Ten (2002, Abbas Kiarostami) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry). • Special effects: Amélie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet), Being John Malkovich (1999, Spike Jonze) , The Science of Sleep (2006, Michel Gondry) • Digitally transformed footage: Waking Life (2001, Richard Linklater), The Lady and the Duke (2001, Eric Rohmer) • Pioneering solutions: Russian Ark (2002, Aleksandr Sokurow) - recorded as an uninterrupted 87-minute take in uncompressed high definition video. Time

Code (2000, Mike Figgis) – four stories being told simultaneously on the screen divided into four quadrants. • “Elastic reality”5– methods of depicting reality and ways of distorting it - Full Frontal (2002, Steven Soderbergh), The Anniversary Party (2001, Alan Cumming,

3 4 5

Holly Willis, New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image (London: Wallflower Press, 2005) Anna Everett and John T. Caldwell, op.cit. Lev Manovich, op. cit.p.5.


M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Jennifer Jason Leigh), Tape (2001, Richard Linklater), American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes) and films of Dogme 95.

All the films mentioned above were chosen due to their original approach to the potential of digital techniques. They will be discussed along with other examples of films that employ similar solutions, in order to establish the existence of style patterns.

Research timetable
December January February March April May June July August September

Intensive Research Final Proposal Dissertation Presentation Further Reading and Film Analysis Dissertation Draft Editing and Rewrites Deadline

8th 19th



M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Preliminary source materials
Bolter, J. David and Grusin, Richard. Remediation: Understanding New Media Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999. Bordwell, David. Narration in Fiction Film. London: Routledge, 1997. Braudy, Leo and Cohen, Marshall. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Cherchi Usai, Paolo. The Death of the Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age. London: BFI Publishing, 2001. Cubitt, Sean. The Cinema Effect. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. Darley, Andrew. Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres. London: Routledge, 2000. Druckrey, Timothy. Ars Electronica: Facing the Future. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1996. Everett, Anna & John T. Caldwell. New Media: Theories and Practices of Digitextuality. New York: Routledge, 2003. Gere, Charlie. Digital Culture. London: Reaktion Books, 2002. Harries, Dan [ed.] The New Media Book. London: BFI Publishing 2002. Johnson, Steven. Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate. New York: Basic Books, 1997. Krauss, Rosalind E. ‘A Voyage on the North Sea’: Art in the Age of the Post Medium Condition. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999.


M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Liestol, Gunnar and Morrison, Andrew. Digital Media Revisited: Theoretical and Conceptual Innovations in Digital Domains. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. Lunefeld, Peter. The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. McClean, Shilo, T. Digital Storytelling: The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2007. Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the holodeck : the future of narrative in cyberspace. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998. Pierson, Michele. Special Effects: Still in Search of Wonder. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Rieser, Martin and Zapp, Andrea. New Screen Media: Cinema/ Art/ Narrative. London: BFI Publishing, 2002. Willis, Holly. New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image. London: Wallflower Press, 2005.

Adaptation (2002, Spike Jonze) Amélie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet) American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes) The Anniversary Party (2001, Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh) Being John Malkovich (1999, Spike Jonze) The Celebration – Festen (1998, Thomas Vinterberg)

M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

Chuck & Buck (2000, Miguel Arteta) Conversations with Other Women (2005, Hans Canosa) Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry). Full Frontal (2002, Steven Soderbergh) Hotel (2001, Mike Figgis) The Idiots (1998, Lars von Trier) The Lady and the Duke (2001, Eric Rohmer) Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d’enfants, Yann Samuel) Ma Vie En Rose (1997, Alain Berliner) Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan), Russian Ark (2002, Aleksandr Sokurow) Science of Sleep (2006, Michel Gondry) Schizopolis (1996, Steven Soderbergh) Tadpole (2002, Gary Winick) Tape (2001, Richard Linklater) Ten (2002, Abbas Kiarostami) Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000, Rodrigo García) Time Code (2000, Mike Figgis) Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005, Michael Winterbottom)

M.A. Digital Culture and Technology

28 Days Later (2002, Danny Boyle) Waking Life (2001, Richard Linklater)


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